On a Footprints Challenge

It’s challenge time!

Long-time visitors to my little corner of the world know that writing fiction isn’t my thing. With over 1,900 posts, I’ve written one fiction post. Actually two because the original post did turn into a short story challenge that involved me changing my original story.

Not that I’m changing my format in on these pages, but what the heck – let’s try it again!

1. Write a short story based on the image below in the genre of your choice.


2. The story must be 150 words or less.

3. Publish your story after I post mine (Monday, July 10th @ 12:15 am Eastern US) AND link back to the post with my story (not this post).

4. Display the image above your story

5. The story title must be Footprints in the Sand

6. Display the following image after the story.

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On an Inspiring Edit

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When I started volunteering at the English Second Language (ESL) class, I didn’t know what to expect: I didn’t know the teacher or any of the students. I didn’t know how the class worked, and I certainly don’t know the language of an English teacher. On the first day, seeing the international group gathered in one place for the same goal made me smile … after all, the majority of the world is good … but the uncertainty remained – including how the students would react to me.

Like any first impression, I formed mine by watching and listening to the students. The fact that their personalities occupied a wide spectrum shouldn’t surprise anyone. I don’t recall Lisa, (a young au pair from France) attending on my first day, but I recall that my initial impressions of her included impersonal, quiet, cold, guarded, and a touch of arrogance.

I knew better than trying to crack her personal barrier, so I did what I do with every student – focus on the task at hand while being personable, respectful, and welcoming. We conversed several times because I had worked with the young lady she sits beside – another French au pair. Watching Lisa have a good time at the Christmas white-elephant gift party provided a glimpse into her warmer side. Eventually we worked together, and all went well.

The teacher promotes publishing opportunities for the students – and some participate. This particular volunteer day happened to be the submission deadline, so the teacher asked me to meet with Lisa with the objective of editing and fine-tuning Lisa’s poem and story.

We went to a workspace outside the classroom, then started with her 19-line poem – which (unlike the story) I had read. She immediately apologized for its darkness, but I reassured her that my role was to improve her poem by bringing clarity to future readers – therefore not making personal judgments. Her English is good, and she’s been in the US more than a year – so her strong writing didn’t surprise me.

As we discussed her poem, Lisa responded to my questions from her heart – after all, the poem was about her. By elaborating her intent, she made my task easy. Not only did I learn more about her, she told me that she was happy when I was the one working with her because of the different people she encounters in class, I was the one she trusted the most … which surprised me because we hadn’t worked that much together, and I attend only once a week.

Her comment may have shocked me, but I was unquestionably grateful. In general, my steady temperament keeps my outward emotions in check. Whereas I’m not be overly emotionally, the sensitivity button within my core can be activated – and that would bring emotions to the surface … and yes .. Lisa triggered that button.

I told her that her comments were a gift from her to me, which (in turn), surprised and confused her … but she didn’t know about the emotional swell that was going on within me – my emotions of her journey coupled with the her kind words to me.

Being me, I returned to the task of providing comments and suggestions for her poem … then we moved on to the story: a one-page narrative about her France-to-Cincinnati journey … but unknown to the other, each of our emotions were now on heightened alert.

I kept asking questions and providing suggestions while Lisa continued being sincere, open and vulnerable. Although we were on the story, I was fusing the thoughts from the poem, the story, and her explanations. She was reaching deep within herself in these writings, and her explanations were from her inner abyss – something I never intended to do.

I asked, “Are you selfish?” … to which she quickly and emphatically responded, “Yes!” … and even saying it with a smile. We laughed, and our work continued. As we talked, the laughs and calmness eventually changed to tears in her eyes … and in time, my eyes welled.

Not only around the thought of the unexpected gift, but I was also reflecting on various aspects of my life – my trials – my tribulations – my baggage that I placed on my shoulders – and the baggage that others placed upon me. Now, I was the one explaining some of the feelings she caused me to bring out – and yes – I told Lisa about the gift she gave me – and she smiled.

We finished the edit. Being that both of us had our moments of watery eyes, we engaged in some small talk in order to regain our composure. We returned to the classroom to discover the students were gone – class was over. We informed the teacher of our accomplishments, and Lisa promised the teacher she would do her final edits and resubmit the work later in the afternoon.

While walking to my car, I reflected about the unexpected gift and my emotions. This time, without tears, but with a smile, and warmth in my core. I had a special moment with a person that I initially thought was impersonal, quiet, cold, guarded, and arrogant. For whatever reason, she let her guard down to me. We respectfully connected, and she reinforced my notion that the majority of the world is good. That’s a good day by my standards, but on this day, I got quite the unexpected special moment on a special day – my birthday.

Merci beaucoup, Lisa! … and peace and happiness to you in all your days ahead.

StudentGift

“Eyes Never Fake a Smile” …I left teaching almost 15 years ago, so it’s been awhile since I’ve been surprised in this manner. After class the following week, Lisa gave me this art that she created as a thank you gift, plus a personalized note and a few French cookies. Although the cookies didn’t make it home, this now serves as a reminder of a very good day.

On Writing for Blogs

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When I wrote On the Blogging Blues (April 27, 2015), I had no idea the level of comments readers would provide. After all, the post was about the importance of and the different levels of blogging breaks.

Comments by readers were so outstanding, I studied them while wondering what to do with the information. I eventually identified the better comments, organized them into topics, paraphrased the words, and then published the information … and this is the last of the 5 posts in this series.

Thanks again to those who commented on the original post … so, thanks for sharing your knowledge and perspective.

Topic: Writing
Having a schedule that works for you is important.

Don’t write half-ass posts or comments … strive for whole-ass … keep in mind that writing takes time.

Reading other blogs helps formulate ideas for your own posts.

Posting weekly or every other week helps prevent burn out.

Beware of the too-muchness factor: too many posts, too many words, too many images.

I think people have to find their own flow and rhythm about posting – and reading/commenting. Some days you just want to do one or the other. It all should be fun and without stress ( but we all feel pressure as we all seem to have high expectations for ourselves?)

Sometimes the best writing is unplanned because it just happens.

Beware of the length because too much causes many readers to skim.

Not only is it okay to miss a post, it’s preferable. Quality vs. quantity. I’m down to +/- one every six days and my writing has never been better. I’ve gotten a bigger audience because of it, as well.

Posting daily, weekly, random are all OK,

If the post is long, can it be divided into multiple posts?

Write within yourself. Write about what makes you (as the host) comfortable – but remember your readers because they are your audience.

So don’t force yourself to write or post.

Writer’s block is real …. so having a variety of things to write about is helpful.

Many hosts of single-focused blogs don’t realize how much they have to know to maintain good information.

Past Topics in This Series
Blogging
Breaks and the Blues
Community
Posting and Frequency

On Cursive: To Be or Not To Be

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This past fall, our local-weekly newspaper posed this question: Should school continue to teach cursive writing? Why or why not? Fortunately, they published many responses, to which I found a certain amount of amusement. Here you go, but the comments in italics are my responses.

Yes! Because it is necessary! (… and examples for necessary are?)

The teaching of cursive handwriting and reading has been in school since Abraham Lincoln wrote on a coal shovel in a one-room log cabin school. It not only teaches young students how to write, but how to read handwriting. (Yes … and using slide rules and an abacus have a chance of returning to schools. At least we don’t have to bring back the Algebra problem of determining what time do you have to be at the train station to pick up two friends arriving on different trains that left at different times and traveled at different speeds over different distances … oops …  that problem probably still exists!)

They should continue to teach it for the sole fact that someone will have to interpret old documents in the future. (Alright, interpreting hieroglyphics and ancient Hebrew still have a place, thus should be required for high school graduation.)

Yes because cursive writing is beneficial to learning and integrating communication between the two hemisphere. (Thank you Mr. Learning Theory & Cognitive Learning Expert because we now know that printing, typing, or keyboarding notes does not influence learning because of a lack of communication between cerebral hemispheres.)

Bare minimum, teach them how to sign their name for forms requiring signatures. My sixth-grader is clueless on that. (Although you are open to the idea, are you saying that printing is not acceptable signature on a formal document?)

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Time spent on teaching cursive could be used to educate children on other matters, such as grammar. (Say that it ain’t so!)

They (the students) will need to know it someday, and they will be smarter for it. (I don’t know when, but when it comes, the light bulb will serve as a reminder to thank schools for it.)

No, dumb them down some more. Then we will have total government and corporate control. (Thank you Sean Hannity enthusiast, and please, never attend a public forum on education …. now turn on the radio because it’s time Rush Limbaugh.)

Cursive is not yet obsolete, so we should keep teaching it. Perhaps we could eliminate Roman numerals instead. (How then will future generations understand the Super Bowl?)

A personal finance class should be mandatory for all high schoolers to graduate. (Thank you for your direct and insightful response to the question.)

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On a Word Choice

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I imagine many sports fans are like me – that is having one team – that is having one team they detest under any and all circumstances. Instead of many, it may even be most sports fans … but I’m confident this isn’t true for all.

For me, it’s the University of Kentucky (UK) – especially in basketball. After all, I’m unhappy even when they lose. I can honestly say that their fans drove me to that point because I find UK fans to be arrogant, condescending, blind, self-centered, and more uncomplimentary adjectives.

I know that UK fans haven’t cornered the market on that behavior. After all, a large school in the center of my state exhibits similar behavior regarding a ball of another shape that bounces funny.

I’m confident that my statement isn’t true for all UK fans – and I’m unsure if most qualifies because I don’t have the numbers to support the statement. Yet, I find many is a good descriptor because being a relative term and a bit vague. After all, on first thought a million is many, but is it when compared to a billion?

However, this post isn’t about sports or the University of Kentucky because the above sets the stage for my experience and point.

Sometime in January 2014 I was reading a humorous post about the start of a new year. It was quite amusing and very well done … well … until reading one important sentence. In the blogging world, I tend to take the high road to avoid confrontation, so I didn’t comment – but the statement kept festering in my mind – so I returned to add my thoughts to the comments section.

My comment wasn’t disrespectful to the host – not even snarky – but I made my point in a respectful manner, and the host reciprocated the same way. We exchanged several comments, and in the end, while agreeing to disagree, I moved on … and yes, I have returned since the encounter.

To me, at issue was the word all – a word that is quite inclusive. Because many or most wasn’t used, I don’t positively know that my reaction would have different, but because I focused on all, I’m confident that my reaction would have been different.

Is there a difference in using many, most, and all? Is blog writing so informal that we should overlook the use of these descriptors?